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Oakland County Probate & Estate Administration Law Blog

Finding out more about a trust is important

There are many options for estate planning and no one plan will work for everyone. However, regardless of the size of the estate, a trust may be a good idea to consider. For anyone in Michigan who is venturing into estate planning, learning about the different types of trusts can help a family determine what may be the best course of action for them.

Individual needs and expenses may determine the type of trust that is best. One type that is common is a minor children’s trust. This is meant to provide for the needs of minor children. A generation skipping trust is a great option for grandparents who want to leave funds to grandchildren.

Estate plan mistakes of James Gandolfini may be lesson for others

Oftent, people think those who have a great deal of assets must have all of their estate planning ducks in a row. However, the death of Soprano's star James Gandolfini showed that not everyone has taken the necessary steps to ensure that a comprehensive estate plan is in place. Because Gandolfini had a will, the details of his estate plan were made public. Anyone in Michigan who has yet to make an estate plan may be able to learn from his reported mistakes.

One mistake Gandolfini reportedly made was that he never truly finished the estate-planning process. He started to make plans when his daughter was born. However, after his death, his will did not include property he owned. He may have started to plan his estate and fate of his assets, but he had never finished prior to dying suddenly.

Tips for how Michigan residents should not estate plan

Every estate plan is different. Despite the size of an estate or the value of any assets, an estate plan is pretty much the same process for all Michigan residents who want to protect their family and also protect all for which they have worked. For those who have not started or who have devised an estate plan years ago, there are some important tips about what not to do.

One vital tip is to not select the wrong beneficiary. In some high-profile cases, a person of considerable wealth has chosen a beneficiary who has developed money problems or even substance abuse problems that made their ability to handle an estate responsibly quite questionable. Also, some have chosen a beneficiary and not updated the plan -- meaning that a beneficiary listed is someone who is already deceased, further complicating the estate-administration process.

Estate plan of The Velvet Underground's Lou Reed made public

Whenever a celebrity dies, the news is typically flooded with every last detail of their demise. Then, details about the value of their estate may be made public also. One way to avoid having these details made public is for celebrities or others who have a high value estate to have a trust created rather than a will. Anyone in Michigan who is concerned about their estate plan may want to learn more about the difference between a trust and will and why some think Lou Reed handled this issue wrong.

Lou Reed’s estate is estimated to be worth $30 million. A will that has been processed through probate states that the singer left his wife 75 percent of the estate. He left the remaining 25 percent to his sister. He also left a cash amount to his sister for the sole purpose of providing care for their elderly mother.

Michigan families may find inheritance less than expected

The entire estate-planning process can be tricky for families to navigate. It may be challenging for an elderly family member or spouse to disclose assets and financial information to the people to whom they may be closest. However, the more transparency there is when it comes to an inheritance and estate planning, the better Michigan families may be prepared to deal with estate planning and estate administration.

One area that may be difficult and require openness is the location of funds. Offshore or secret foreign accounts can spell trouble for those unfamiliar with the process. A significant chunk of the money may also be needed to pay penalties and fees for accessing the money. The more a family knows about these types of accounts, the better prepared they may be to distribute assets among family members.

Drawing up a will could alleviate future stress in Michigan

Broaching the topic of estate planning can be somewhat uncomfortable for many people. However, it is better to have these plans in place long before they are needed in order to ensure that end-of-life decisions are handled accordingly. Estate planning covers various subjects from creating a will to appointing a power of attorney, and these decisions should not be made hastily.

Some Michigan residents may avoid thinking about making these plans because they fear that the process will be long and complicated. Luckily, drawing up the proper documents can be less stressful if an individual has information on how to do so. Certain circumstances such as multiple marriages and the number of children could potentially lead to more difficult decisions, but understanding the importance of these plans could help parties appoint the right individuals.

Michigan residents should not put off drafting an estate plan

Many people wrongfully assume that they do not need to think about such things as estate planning if they are just starting out or do not have a great deal of valuable assets. Yet, anyone in Michigan who has children would be wise to make estate planning a priority. Also, residents should seriously consider how the size of their estate or number of owned properties can factor into an estate plan.

One couple was recently shocked when their older parents insisted they take the time to begin the estate planning process. They were going on a cruise and planned to leave their young child in the care of the grandparents. The grandparents rightfully made it clear that they needed legal documentation to ensure the fate of the child if something were to happen to them on the cruise. This incident highlights that anyone with children should have an estate plan in place, regardless of their age.

Michigan families need estate plan for digital assets

Estate plans essentially outline the fate of one's personal belongings and other assets, such as bank accounts and investments. As technology continues to grow by leaps and bounds, it is becoming more important to think outside of the box when it comes to estate planning. Simply put, it is about much more than who gets the fine china and the house. An estate plan for Michigan residents may now need to include digital assets.

Digital assets can include anything from email accounts, pictures stored in a cloud and online banking information. More than half of all Americans now engage in some kind of online banking. This means there may not be a traditional checkbook or bank statements in the mail to help beneficiaries connect the dots about finances.

In Michigan, an estate plan can be about more than family

Traditionally, estate planning has been the process of handing down belongings and other assets from one generation to the next. The process of creating an estate plan is highly personal. That is reflected in some recent changes to the process in general, such as for those who do not have children or who are seeking a more creative approach. Michigan residents and others around the country are taking a different approach as family dynamics continue to evolve.

More families and individuals are choosing to not have children. As a result, childless couples or single individuals are taking a more charitable approach to leaving their assets behind in a will. Charitable giving is an approach that is gaining in popularity for those without children.

Include the right kind of power of attorney in your estate plan

There are many decisions to make when it comes to estate planning. Many may think a will is all that is needed. However, there are other documents and protections that may be needed to complete the estate plan of a Michigan resident.

One essential document is a durable power of attorney. This gives someone the power to make financial decisions on the behalf of someone who is unable to do so. Some may assume that they should give this authority to someone who is closest to them personally. However, if that person is not good at handling money, that could be a mistake. There should be a back-up person named, too, just in case the first person would become incapacitated or mentally unable to handle financial decisions.

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